A Confederate Prisoner Remembered in a Northern Town
By Diane Janowski © 2006
Allen Smith and I are double historians - in our hometown of Elmira, New York and in our adopted hometown of New Roads, Louisiana. In New Roads (Pointe Coupée Parish near Baton Rouge) we have been involved in several history projects including the Pointe Coupée at the Millennium photography project funded by the Wurtele Foundation.
Number 995 in the death list of 2,963 Confederate prisoners of war, Corporal Michel Fortlouis (or sometimes Fort-Louis) died at the Elmira Prison Camp in Elmira, New York. Fortlouis and his two brothers, Leopold and Theophile, enlisted in the Pointe Coupée (Louisiana) Artillery Company B in June 1861. The Pointe Coupée Artillery Company B fought at the siege of Vicksburg, and with its losses was consolidated into Company A, which joined the Army of Tennessee and was active in the Atlanta Campaign. Michel Fortlouis, however, went AWOL at about the same time as the beginning of the Atlanta Campaign in April/May 1864. Union troops captured Michel Fortlouis in Clinton, Louisiana on August 20, 1864. He was received at Ship Island, Mississippi on October 5, 1864, subsequently received in New York City on November 16, 1864, arrived at the Elmira Prison Camp on November 19, 1864, and died in Barracks No. 3 on November 29, 1864 of pneumonia - just ten days after arriving in Elmira. His marker in Woodlawn Cemetery is erroneously marked “L. Forthewis.” Michel Fortlouis was 27-years old. Both his brothers survived the war.
On Memorial Day 2006, we visited Fortlouis' grave and in a quiet ceremory gave him the dirt from home, and affixed his marker with his correct information.
The Elmira Prison Camp existed from July 1864 to July 1865 and housed more than twelve thousand Confederate prisoners of war. Nearby, Woodlawn National Cemetery holds the graves of 2,963 Confederate soldiers who died in Elmira. The graves were dug, and meticulous personal information was recorded under the direction of John W. Jones, a former slave from Virginia. Jones played an important role in the Underground Railroad in Elmira in helping Southern slaves pass through the area.